Review: Delgo vs Avatar

delgo one sheetThere’s been a lot of buzz in the geek world about how James Cameron’s upcoming film Avatar looks like it’s a rip-off of a 2008 animated film release called Delgo, from Electric Eye Entertainment. I grabbed a copy of Delgo and watched it, both looking at the storyline and comparing it as I went with the fifteen minutes of Avatar footage I’ve seen (see my review of Avatar Day footage for details).

To be honest, there are a number of superficial similarities between the alien world of Pandora that Cameron has created for Avatar and the world of Delgo. But that’s about it.
The film Delgo is a highly predictable story of two races of people who have an uneasy truce, and how the pure love of a Lockni boy (Delgo, voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and a Nohrin princess (Kyle, voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt) overcomes a potential war and produces a long-lasting peace between the races.
The story is so banal that it’s barely worth reviewing, but I will admit that the visual style of the animated feature was quite delightful, and, as you’ll see, the rendering of textures, including rocks, wood, plantlife and skin, was almost flawless. Beautiful.
There was quite a voice cast in Delgo too, including Anne Bancroft, Val Kilmer, Malcolm McDowell, Louis Gossett Jr., Eric Idle, Burt Reynolds and even Sally Kellerman. Problem was, none of their voices actually sounded familiar so the production company – which appears to have completely skipped any sort of advertising campaign anyway – could have saved a lot of money and hired other voice talent.
Delgo is a 2008 release, so it’s available on DVD. is it worth a rental?  Maybe. It’s too violent and intense for younger children, rather startlingly so, but it’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of animation in all its variations.
But is Cameron ripping off Delgo for his creative ideas for Avatar?  Well…

What you should do right now is go and watch the Avatar trailer at Apple Trailers. Now, with that imagery in mind, check out these images I grabbed from Delgo

delgo hanging tree branch

In this first picture, you can see the facial characteristics and skin tone of Delgo as he hangs on a tree branch, seconds before being rescued by Princess Kyla.  Compare that to this picture from Avatar, of Jake looking off into the distance:

avatar still 4

Similar, but not that similar…


delgo kyla kiss

One of the signature scenes in Avatar’s trailer is the kiss between Jake and Neytiri. Is there a parallel in Delgo?  Well, check the above, even to the floating fairy mushroom image in the background.

avatar still 3

The scene where Jake and Neytiri kiss has only a superficial similarity, if that.


delgo flying beast

In this rather blurry image, you can see that Delgo also has the concept of flying pterodactyl-like creatures that are controlled by a bridle. In Avatar, there are similar beasts but they are controlled by pulling on their long antennae:

avatar jake riding

I could show a few more Delgo images, but what I want to say is that there are some definite similarities between Delgo and Avatar, at least the footage I’ve seen, but I don’t see it as a rip-off regardless. The images are sufficiently different, and more importantly, the story seems to be completely different, leaving us with the similarity of two fantasy worlds inhabited by humanoid creatures and fantastical beasts and flora. 

Is that enough to claim theft of intellectual property?  I don’t think so. Of course, we’ll never know if James Cameron watched or even studied Delgo when he was envisioning the world of Avatar, but since he says he’s been working on the film for a decade now, it seems like his basic concepts are likely to predate the Delgo production by years anyway.

Maybe the relevant question to ask is: did the Delgo design team study Avatar sketches?

4 comments on “Review: Delgo vs Avatar

  1. Thanks for that, Dave. I’ve been hating the comparisons being made. Though, if we want to draw correlations between films… we always can do so. Apples and oranges I say, in this case.

  2. Dave’s right. Cameron’s been working on Avatar since ’97. He would have made it then, had our technology been up to speed.
    Great movie, by the way, saw it an hour ago and still shaking!

  3. I saw Avatar a week or so ago, and it was epic, okay? I didn’t see Delgo, but it looked kind of, well, cheap. Plus, Cameron HAS been working on Avatar way longer than Delgo was even thought up.

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